Home » Jeep Is In Trouble And Hopes Nostalgia Can Save It

Jeep Is In Trouble And Hopes Nostalgia Can Save It

Jeep Nostalgia
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Here’s a pretty terrifying fact if you’re a marketer for Jeep: out of the top 33 car brands selling cars  in the United States, Jeep’s sales growth is at the absolute bottom, meaning that there are 32 brands ahead of them (can you even name 32 car brands?). In a market where almost every brand is growing, Jeep has lost 12% of sales compared to 2022, which itself was a dismal year. This comes after four consecutive years of sales declines for Jeep. What can be done?

Nostalgia! I don’t usually talk about marketing here, though it does fascinate me. Jeep is, potentially, a super strong brand, but it hasn’t been lately. The approach Stellantis is taking to fix it is an interesting one and I want to talk about it first. There’s also some news out of Mercedes in the form of a “Baby g” as well as updates on Toyota’s fuel cell projects and a look at the overall chip supply.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Check Out The ‘Dents’ On This Jeep

Screenshot 2023 09 07 At 10.19.40 Am

I’ve discussed, at length, the challenges Jeep is currently facing. On the one hand, the PHEV 4XE vehicles have been a surprising sales success. On the other hand, the overall product mix for Jeep doesn’t seem to be resonating with the larger market. Plus, competition from Ford and its Bronco line of vehicles is giving the Wrangler its first real test in decades.

Jeep, ultimately, has a product problem. Perhaps the new 2024 Jeep Wrangler is good (we haven’t reviewed it yet). Still, a mildly refreshed 2024 Wrangler is not going to suddenly turn the brand’s fortunes around.

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Just look at this sales report from FCA:

Screen Shot 2023 09 07 At 8.44.00 Am

There’s the Jeep brand through the first half of 2023. It ain’t pretty. YTD the best performing vehicle is the Compass, which appears to be heavily incentivized (the brand is currently offering 15% off MSRP). Literally every other vehicle is declining year-over-year.

In my humble opinion, the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer has not broken into the big SUV space to truly challenge Ford and GM. The Renegade is old and hard to swallow at almost any price. If you want a Jeep Wrangler there’s no better Jeep Wrangler than a Jeep Wrangler, but depending upon the price, you might be better off buying a Bronco Sport than just about any of their small crossover/SUVs (or a Chevy Trax or Kia Seltos, if you don’t need/want the off-road chops).

The Grand Cherokee is good and, if you work for Jeep, the rebound in Q2 is hopeful.

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Product problems are hard to fix and it takes years, not days, to fix them. You know what you can fix in days? Marketing. Marketing will always exist to fix product problems.

A story in Automotive News caught my eye this morning, because the reporter there spoke with Stellantis marketing head Olivier Francois to find out exactly what the brand is trying to accomplish. The campaign is called “Dents” and it’s dripping with nostalgia. Just look at the video at the top of this section. Look at all the memories created by one Jeep! Look at the family! Listen to the smarmy, Mumford & Sons-y song!

From the article:

Olivier Francois, marketing chief for Jeep parent Stellantis, said the ad’s focus is building loyalty rather than conquesting buyers.

Francois said the time was right for a Grand Cherokee campaign as dealership inventory grows. He said the nameplate has logged millions of sales since 1992 and has a place in the hearts of many.

“This is an extended approach to loyalty,” Francois told reporters last week. “Literally a new generation, cross-generational loyalty to the vehicle, and this will allow us to add an emotional and nostalgic level of connection with the customer.”

As Peter pointed out in Slack, this is basically the same ad Subaru ran, with essentially the same song, back in 2017:

Screenshot 2023 09 07 At 10.19.54 Am

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I mean, I work with a crazy person who is spending a lot of time and money putting together the ultimate Jeep Grand Cherokee so maybe this is going to work on Jeep people.

They Call Me ‘Baby g’

Screenshot 2023 09 07 At 10.20.06 Am

Speaking of beloved off-road brands… for years, Mercedes has apparently considered making a smaller G-Class. Instead, Mercedes built the more family-friendly GLB, which is a completely fine and forgettable crossover thing.

It sounds like we’re finally going to get the baby-G.

“Tonight, we are announcing for all the G-Fans out there, there will be a little g,” Mercedes CEO Källenius  told Bloomberg at the Munich car show, adding “So a son or daughter of the iconic G.”

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This makes a lot of sense to me. A smaller, cheaper, boxy Gelandewagen can trade on the brand’s iconic shape. While there’s no timing that’s been announced, it’s clear from Mercedes that this new itty-bitty-g will be all-electric.

Microchip Shortage Update: North America FTW!

Toyota Plant
Photo: Toyota

The ongoing microchip shortage has had an outsized impact on the car market in the United States, but our fortunes are improving. According to Automotive News/Auto Forecast Solutions, the number of vehicles that had to be delayed due to chips shortages in North America fell to only around 4,700 last week.

That’s not zero, but it’s a big improvement from August of last year, when around 22,300 vehicles were cut in a week according to the same data set. Things are still rough in Asia, where non-Chinese plants lost 43,157 vehicles and Chinese plants lost an additional 19,669 production slots.

Toyota’s Long Beach Port Operations Now Powered By Hydrogen

Tri Fuel PlantIf you go to the Port of Long Beach complex and find Toyota’s section you’ll see something quite interesting. Rising out of a massive concrete field is a strange collection of metal tubes, machinery, and tanks that at once looks familiar and somehow new.

This is a hydrogen “Tri-Gen” powerplant, built by the company FuelCell Energy, and it now powers Toyota’s port operations. Using renewable biogas (i.e., natural gas created by decomposing biomatter), the facility produces electricity, hydrogen, and usable water.

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The energy will help power Toyota’s equipment, the hydrogen will be used for Toyota hydrogen vehicles, and the water will be used in the company’s car wash operations. The water part is quite interesting and should, according to Toyota, reduce water supplies by about half a million gallons per year.

While I’m still not convinced that we’ll all be driving hydrogen cars in a few years, these kinds of industrial projects make a lot of sense to me. Obviously, there are limits on how much biogas can be produced, but taking methane released from landfills and preventing it from becoming a greenhouse gas is a powerful idea.

The Big Question

It’s Thursday. It’s been a long week. Here’s an easy one for you: How would you save Jeep?

Photos: Toyota, Jeep

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John J Gerding
John J Gerding
12 days ago

I just saw that ad and laughed my fool head off. As for the low sales numbers, I don’t understand it. Perhaps if they stopped re-bodying Fiats and stuck to Jeeps, it would be better. in the meantime, I will say that when it was time for me to trade in my
Grand Cherokee, I bought a Durango Hellcat instead, because down here in Florida it seems like EVERYBODY is driving a damn Cherokee.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
14 days ago

Does anyone else think the Wagoneer looks like a large Minivan moreso than a large luxury SUV? I find it by far the ugliest of the large SUVs which is sad as the original Wagoneer was mega classy.

Elhigh
Elhigh
14 days ago

Toyota powered by hydrogen: only in Long Beach. And nobody, nobody is holding their breath on expanding that operation further afield.

Steven Moor
Steven Moor
14 days ago

Well, maybe next time you want to try to resurrect a classic namesake like the Wagoneer, don’t turn it into a luxobarge for the rich? Just a thought.

Albino Kangaroo
Albino Kangaroo
14 days ago

About FCA, maybe they should just pop a Jeep badge on the Chrysler Pacifica. I think I found the same chart and they sold 73,845 this year, up 26% from 2022 (58,463).

Notably, the plug in Pacifica is #4 in total PHEV sales in the US.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fca-second-quarter-2023-us-sales-up-6-301868981.html

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
14 days ago

Jeep’s problems are two fold: They don’t have the perceived reliability and they aren’t unique and special anymore in the market.

The solution is to reduce the number of models and focus on quality control and capability. Trying to be American Land Rover was a stupid move, people that want a land Rover or Range rover aren’t looking at Jeeps. Offer a best in class warranty like Hyundai and go down to only 3-4 models.

Wrangler/Gladiator
Grand Cherokee + (L)
Cherokee

Make the Wagoneer a Chrysler product, make the Compass/Renegade siblings Dodge products. Jeep needs to position themselves as the most capable vehicles and some of the most reliable on the market or the Bronco and Land Cruiser are going to eat their lunch.

Albino Kangaroo
Albino Kangaroo
14 days ago

Make the Wagoneer a Chrysler product – Yes, this.

Ryan L
Ryan L
11 days ago

This is the answer but they won’t do it. Too much greed. How they fucked up the Cherokee so much is beyond me. It should have been been inbetween the compass and it’s current size/weight and had specs to actually make it a RAV4 CRV competitor. It also never should have carried the Cherokee name – that in of itself is a travesty to the glory of the XJ

Jeep used to be a money making machine and the recipe was pretty simple. Appeal to adventure with the Wrangler but sell a shit load of Grand Cherokees to suburbanites.

They did this by offering premium-ish luxury at around 40k circa 2010ish- heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheels etc. Now I suspect you’d be at around 57k to get premium features in a 4X4 Grand Cherokee.

I just think that’s a tough slog for the Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorers of the world. Probably a case of wages not keeping up with inflation but also with Hyundai now in the mix it’s an uphill battle.

kellogg10 JeepXJ
kellogg10 JeepXJ
14 days ago

I own a 1996 Jeep Cherokee XJ… and I continue to drive it because it’s ridiculously easy to maintain and work on… and I’m far from the only person that does this… in fact, XJ enthusiasts in general are a fairly dedicated group of people… so they must know what ppl are doing with XJs in the second hand market… of all the vehicles they could “bring back” it’s questionable why they would side step that one.

pizzaman09
pizzaman09
14 days ago

As a 1990 Jeep Comanche MJ owner, I agree. I see no reason to upgrade to a newer Jeep as the MJ is very reliable, simple, quite comfortable and extremely capable for it’s size. If I were to purchase a new Jeep today it would be a two door Wrangler with a manual. The new Wrangler rides super nice and with the Pentastar V6 is a bit of a rocket in two door guise.

kellogg10 JeepXJ
kellogg10 JeepXJ
13 days ago
Reply to  pizzaman09

It seems they are determined to ignore what has worked very well from them in the past… i get about an inquiry a week from people wanting to buy my XJ. The keep the Wrangler around because it sells well… and they deep sixed everything else. ????????‍♂️

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
14 days ago

Jeep’s problem is they’re not really special anymore, now that cars have mostly disappeared and almost everything is an SUV/CUV, hard to stand out as an-all SUV brand when every brand is doing the same thing. They also got way drunk on success and stretched the brand to chase volume while letting aging models keep going under the assumption that people will always buy Jeeps no matter what

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
14 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Agreed. They need to trim the fat and get back to their core, extremely competent models.

John Metcalf
John Metcalf
13 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Is Jeep the Harley-Davidson of 4-wheel vehicles?

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
14 days ago

RE: Jeep Ad. Putting the worst driver in the family into the least safe, least reliable car in the family is stupid.

Last edited 14 days ago by NosrednaNod
Col Hathi
Col Hathi
14 days ago

Learn from Toyota, Jeep! I’m not talking just about the tickets-to-the-game stuff like dealer performance, service experience, vehicle reliability, and low cost-of-ownership. These are super-important. But also, think core customer, their life-cycle, and a halo product just for them at every stage.

Jeep today doesn’t have a true halo product to appeal to the young, adventurous, out-doorsy, un-rich folks who just want a rugged truck that can take them someplace beautiful over a long weekend for little gas money. Nor do they have a true-blue luxurious overlander to fuel the nostalgia of the countless un-unrich folks who now demand more. Their models have very little differentiation apart from size and price.

Toyota has the Corolla Cross, the 4Runner, and the Land Cruiser for these poor sods as they go through their life on capitalism’s treadmill.

Last edited 14 days ago by Col Hathi
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
14 days ago

> How would you save Jeep

I wouldn’t. The brand name writes checks their engineering can’t cash. Let it die. Sorry DT.

32 brands? Let’s see.

Lucid Rivian Vinfast (lol) Tesla Polestar
Toyota Lexus
Honda Acura
Nissan Infiniti
Kia Hyundai Genesis
Jeep RAM Chrysler Alfa Dodge Fiat
BMW mini
VW Audi
Ferrari Lamborghini Maserati
Bugatti
McLaren
Ford Lincoln
Chevy GMC Cadillac
Volvo
Aston
Land Rover Range Rover Jag
Mercedes

That’s almost 40 off the top of my head. There have to be more than 33. And I have little doubt they all still fare better than Jeep.

Last edited 14 days ago by Harvey Park
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
14 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

Edit: add Buick, Mitsubishi, Rolls, Bentley.

44 brands. I wonder where that 33 number comes from. Even if you remove mclaren and Bugatti, you’re still over.

Or maybe I misread–“jeep at the bottom of the top 33 best selling brands” is weird phrasing.

Last edited 14 days ago by Harvey Park
Anoos
Anoos
14 days ago

There’s not much in the current Jeep line to stir any feelings of nostalgia.

The Wagoneer is entirely anonymous. I have neighbors with a Hyundai carnival and a Wagoneer. In my peripheral vision, the rear view is the same for the two.

They still make the Wrangler, but almost all of them are 4 door vehicles now. There were no 4 door Wranglers in any time that I’d be nostalgic for.

Want my nostalgia dollars? Stick an official grill on a Roxor and make it street legal.

Sekim
Sekim
13 days ago
Reply to  Anoos

Exactly…any Wrangler nostalgia would be of when I was in my 20s rolling around with my TJ with the doors off and the top down. Now, every Jeep driver is a soccer mom with a 4 door and a hard top that they never remove. If you want a 4 door solid roof SUV, there’s about 4000 models with better build quality and ride quality and better fuel mileage and better cargo room and better passenger room than a Wrangler.

Birk
Birk
14 days ago

As many others say for Jeep: pricing inflation is out of control. I bought a pretty loaded 2021 JL Wrangler Rubicon in late 2020. Been having issues with it but to get into the same build now would be 20% more expensive before factoring in the increased loan interest.

On top of that, pretty much every Jeep dealer I’ve experienced, and there have been a lot, has SUCKED!!! From purchase to service, they are bottom of the barrel. Brand representation at the dealer level will need to increase dramatically for Jeep to improve their position. If they actually want to do so.

Sean F
Sean F
14 days ago
Reply to  Birk

By far the worst dealer experiences I have had in my life as far as purchase and or warranty service were Pentastar makes. Had a Jeep, Dodge and Plymouth over the years from 3 different dealers, one a stand alone Dodge dealer, one a medium sized dealer, one a large conglomerate dealer, and they all sucked and were awful to work with.

Birk
Birk
8 days ago
Reply to  Sean F

I’ve been through every dealer in the northern half of Utah, and can confirm.

FleetwoodBro
FleetwoodBro
14 days ago

I bought a new white no options 1993 Jeep Wrangler (two door because that’s all they made) off the lot in socal for $13,000 including tt&l. Using the somewhat iffy internet inflation calculator, that’s about $27,000, which would mean the bargain basement 2024 two door Wrangler msrp should be about 25K +tt&l. What a surprise, it’s $33,690 + tt&l which would put it over 36K all in.

That’s their problem. I was 25, single, and could just scrape it together. Now the cost in equal dollars is like 35% higher. The buyer has to be a good bit older and further along in their career to afford one. But he’s over thirty now, likely married with a kid, he’s got expenses and needs he didn’t even know existed when he was 25. He doesn’t want that vehicle anymore.

They lost the demo.

As an addendum, half doors rule, and that’s how they used to come standard. Now it’s another nearly three grand to get half doors. Pffft.

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
14 days ago
Reply to  FleetwoodBro

The dealers around here only stock the 2-doors starting at least 40K anyway. Or they mark them up to that much.

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